Brisbane floods 2012

Do you have a moisture damaged building?

Wednesday 6 February, 2013

The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), America's Peak Occupational Health and Safety Body (operating as part of the CDC) recently released an alert on Preventing Occupational Respiratory Disease from Exposures Caused by Dampness in Office Buildings, Schools, and Other Nonindustrial Buildings.

This 28 page document comes to the conclusions that:

  • Office and School Buildings may develop persistent excessive moisture due to roof and window leaks, high indoor humidity, and flooding events (among other contributors).
  • Occupants may be exposed to Microbial products and emissions from breakdown of water-damaged building materials.
  • Some of these exposed occupants may develop respiratory symptoms such as asthma or Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis.
  • Many building dampness products occur due to suboptimal construction and/or commissioning issues in new or renovated existing buildings.
  • These problems and associated health effects can be prevented by making dampness prevention a goal in the early development phases.
  • Continued prevention requires on-going attention to building maintenance and operation (including regular maintenance and monitoring of HVAC systems, and other building components which are subject to moisture).
  • Moisture-damaged or mouldy building materials should be remediated (cleaned and repaired or replaced) with appropriate PPE for those conducting remediation.
  • Prevention and Control of building dampness will minimize the chance that occupants will develop respiratory symptoms and disease from exposures related to the dampness

CETEC agrees with the conclusions made within the NOISH Publication 2013-102, however we recommend indoor air testing and surface monitoring as additional tools in identifyingwhether the damp environment has yet negatively impacted building materials and the indoor air quality.  A Victorian Hospital recently demonstrated the value of Microbial Air Quality testing, determining the potential increased risk to occupants, as a result of increased airborne fungal concentrations, following a water leak some number of floors above the operating outpatients centre.  Without this air quality testing, the potential risk to occupants may not have been detected.

During a number of recent building investigations CETEC identified the cause of occupant dissatisfaction (conducted through health interviews, and occupant satisfaction surveys) to be as a result of poor indoor air quality (IAQ) suspected to be as a result of water damaged building materials. 

CETEC recommend that regular monitoring be conducted to ensure the indoor environment remains ideal, and to prevent any potential health or productivity decreases. The NOISH Alert presents a Building Inspection Checklist (Appendix A) which provides a number of criteria aimed towards preventing or minimizing exposure caused by Dampness.

Please contact us to discuss any Indoor Environment dampness concerns you might have with your building.  For further information about our relevant services.